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Opinion: Rob Harteveldt

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‘We should all be proud of our national health service’

After reviewing the first draft of this column, I must admit I felt a little smug. Once again I had berated the politicians I personally held accountable for the state of the NHS today. Before submitting my column, it began something like this:

‘Recently, Gordon Brown set out his vision for the future of the NHS but in my opinion, it sounded like one that was in desperate need of an urgent ophthalmic review. I suspect the catalyst for this new spin arose from his poor performance in recent polls following last year’s “will he, wont he” election fiasco forcing the Labour party to fall back on the sure-fire vote catcher that is the NHS.

‘Healthcare, as Mr Brown points out, is a fundamental right and an expression of our mutual obligation to each other. Why then are some patients being denied vital life-saving drugs and treatments because some NHS trusts can’t afford them?’

My column was going so well and then I watched Michael Moore’s documentary film Sicko. That’s when I realised that instead of blurring Mr Brown’s vision with criticism, I should be embracing it.

When the end credits rolled, I was left feeling that maybe even though working in the NHS is stressful, constantly busy with seemingly impossible targets to meet, it is in comparison with most other systems of healthcare, a diamond in the rough; a real nugget of gold; something to feel humbled by as a consumer and one to feel proud of as a provider.

But we should never become complacent. Good can become better and as nurses we must play our part. We should find the rates of infection unacceptable and ensure that our hygiene practices are second to none. Patients should be able to see GPs when they want and shouldn’t have to wait forever to see a consultant, or for an operation. We should implement programmes to screen for illness where early intervention can prevent complications, and strive to achieve all of the other things that the vision sets out.

It was of course a politician’s vision that led to the creation of the NHS almost 60 years ago and for me, Mr Brown’s vision is powerful enough to take us forward another 60 years.

So, given my enlightenment, I’ve rewritten my column and apologise to Mr Brown for my initial thoughts about his speech. But if this vision turns out to be anything less than twenty/twenty, I’ll be there waiting, with my fingers poised above the keyboard.

Rob Harteveldt is a cardiac liaison nurse at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

NEXT WEEK: Alison Gadsby on those who have a natural nursing instinct

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